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February 05, 2007

Starting to Draw

Now I am past the panel preparation into the drawing. My three panels made with bone and spit are definitely not as fine as ones I could have made with purchased silverpoint medium. I'm sure they are not good at all. But after many coats, rubbings and recoatings, I think this is the best I'm going to get.

Later in the book, Cennino gives recipes for more permanent gessos. I hope they work better than this one did. It's tempting to buy some modern silverpoint gesso just to compare, but maybe another time. I really want to focus on what the master is trying to teach me.

So what do I do with these prepared panels? I draw on them.

How You Should Start Drawing with a Style, and by What Light

Take a style of silver, or brass, or anything else, provided the ends be of silver, fairly slender, smooth, and handsome. Then, using a model, start to copy the easiest possible subjects, to get your hand in; and run the style over the little panel so lightly that you can hardly make out what you first start to do; strengthening your strokes little by little, going back many times to produce the shadows. And the darker you want to make the shadows in the accents, the more times you go back to them; and so, conversely, go back over the reliefs only a few times.

Let the helm and steersman of this power to see be the light of the sun, the light of your eye, and your own hand; for without these three things nothing can be done systematically. But arrange to have the light diffused when you are drawing; and have the sun fall on your left side. And with that system set yourself to practice drawing, drawing only a little each day, so that you may not come to lose your taste for it, or get tired of it.


I made myself a silver style from a 1.8mm silver wire (normally used for jewelry-making) and a thin brass rod. (Both purchased at the indispensable Tokyu Hands) The wire was exactly the size the opening of the rod, so by turning gently, I fit it in snugly. I used a file to make a slightly pointed end. I've read elsewhere that sandpaper is good for sharpening, so I'll try that next time I need to repoint the silver.

It's a very slender stylus, perhaps too slender for sustained drawing, so I will see how it goes and fashion a thicker grip of leather or paper if I need to.

I have not yet been drawing every day, even "only a little," but I did try making some marks on the walnut board. Here's the tiny sketch I did of the plant in the living room:


I need to practice every day to get my drawing skills back up to snuff. I have a long way to go in this apprenticeship. Here's an example of an early Renaissance metalpoint drawing (on paper with gouache highlights) by Filippino Lippi.

Standing Youth with Hands Behind His Back, and a Seated Youth Reading. From www.metmuseum.org

No contest. I'd better stop writing now and pick up the style for a while.